! Books !

Dear Reader! Dear Listener!

On July 8, 2021, I read poems from The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University, 2020) with Nigerian poet Saddiq Dzukogi, who read from his heart moving collection, Your Crib, My Qibla, (University of Nebraska Press, 2021) and Taos, New Mexico Poet Laureate Catherine Strisik, author of Insectum Gravitis (Main Street Rag, 2019), who read beautiful new poems.

Listen to the reading here! (passcode: m2eJp=C^)

Saddiq’s, My, and Catherine’s books nestled together!

One of the special, expanding benefits of reading via Zoom is that my community of beloveds from far and wide can be with. For the July 8th reading, my dear friends from Berlin joined us from their island vacation spot in Sweden via cell phone. In the year two thousand twenty-one, this can be! Plus, friends from Vancouver, BC any outlying areas could join. The photo below features Vincent K. Wong’s phone with the tree of Spanish Banks Beach listening in.

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+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

+ Thank you bows to Catherine Strisik for bringing Saddiq Dzukogi, me, and her together in a sweet and delightful community of poets and listeners.

+ Thank you bows to the souls who joined us from all over North America and Europe!

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, and Mountain West Poetry Series editors Donald Revell and Kazim Ali, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses (2020) with me.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Beth Svinarich et al at University Press of Colorado for their beautiful support to me and The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to monsoon storm chaser and marvelous professional photographer, Liz Kemp whose monsoon photograph storms the cover of The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Vincent K. Wong for his friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ This bears repeating: Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

! Books !

Welcome, Dear Reader!

How happy I am to have your fine company here, today

June 24, 2021 when my poem “Thin Attachment”—

from my during-the-pandemic-published poetry collection 

The Minuses

is the featured poem

on Poetry Daily!

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+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

+ Thank you bows to Poetry Daily and the team at poems.com for their support to this poet, this poem, and for every step the Poetry Daily staff make in support of poets and their poetry.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, and Mountain West Poetry Series editors Donald Revell and Kazim Ali, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses (2020) with me.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Beth Svinarich et al at University Press of Colorado for their beautiful support to me and The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to monsoon storm chaser and marvelous professional photographer, Liz Kemp whose monsoon photograph storms the cover of The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Vincent K. Wong for his friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ This bears repeating: Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

! BOOKS !

Happy May!

And a bird overhead sang Follow,
And a bird to the right sang Here;
And the arch of the leaves was hollow,
And the meaning of May was clear.

―Algernon Charles Swinburne

The month of May is named after Maia―known as the Great Mother, the embodiment of nurturing and growth. That’s perfect for springtime’s buds and blooms, nest building and egg laying. All of this new, new life making itself known while simultaneously we collectively grieve great loss related to the pandemic.

What potent blood hath modest May. —Ralph W. Emerson

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And after winter folweth grene May. ―Geoffrey Chaucer

Welcome!

Dear Reader, I’m thrilled you’re with me here in “grene May,” where I will share dispatches from my reading and writing practices in April!

What did I read in the fourth month of my fourth annual personal big read: #mypersonalBigRead2021?

Here are some highlights!

Parkinsonia florida, the blue palo verde, a Sonoran Desert native which blooms in April and May; image: Jami Macarty.

At the beginning of April, I was preoccupied with proofreading the Spring 2021 issue of The Maynard. For those of you who do not know, The Maynard is the online poetry magazine I co-founded (in 2006/7) and edit. The Spring 2021 issue features The Maynard‘s customary 24 poets, and my focus was on ensuring their 32 poems and 24 bios were error-free. Each time I proofread an issue I’m aware of the process’s calling—for fine-tuned, detail-oriented, and meticulous attention. Proofreading is an undertaking that humbles me! As I comb every line of text, I’m acutely aware of how pressure-inducing and nerve-wracking the process is. You know, when you’re an editor for a poetry magazine, much of your reputation rides on getting names and titles and poems right. As daunting as the task is, it’s equally rewarding. I am proud of the Spring 2021; it is beautiful and makes me happy! I hope you think so, too!

You’re cordially invited to read and listen to the poems of the Spring 2021 issue of The Maynard!

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Once The Maynard was into the world, I turned my attention to deep engagement with the poetry of Alice Notley. Notley was due to read for the Enclave Reading series, and I wanted to steep in her world in preparation. As I think about “preparing” myself for Alice Notley, I get curious. I don’t always “prepare” for readings. Certainly, I have attended other readings “to get to know” poets. However, I have heard Alice Notley read before. All I can offer to myself by way of explanation is that I wanted to be in and in and in Notley’s profound, expansive world for longer than the hour of her live reading. In another way, dear reader, that I felt called to “prepare” myself for Alice Notley gives you a sense of the affect of the energy and power of her writing on me.

We name us and then we are lost, tamed
I choose words, more words, to cure the tameness, not the wildness

Alice Notley

Another highlight of the month’s reading was Rae Armantrout‘s third (I think) collection, Precedence. This book and beautiful object is special to me because of its publication date (1985) early in Armantrout’s ouvre, and also because of the publisher, Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop’s Burning Deck, based in Providence, Rhode Island. These are not easy books to get hands on, so a bibliophile is happy!

willing
to address the world’s
intelligent and
uninhabited designs
.
―Rae Armantrout

In two closings of the loop, I wrapped up April’s reading by engaging with eight collections of poetry in the running for the 2021 New Mexico/Arizona Books Awards for poetry in either the New Mexico or Arizona categories. It was inspiring and gratifying for me to read some of the collections in this year’s field. Au courant! Plus, doing so gave me perspective on last year’s award, won by my collection The Minuses.

palo verde: green stick tree
precipitating yellow blossoms:
green tree, yellow blossoms:
a mind sticks on certain images
, certain colors
―Jami Macarty

I read 30 volumes in April, and as of this writing I have read a total of 134 volumes for the year. The books I plan to read are stacked and May’s reading is underway. One of the books I’m poised to read is RESISTANCE: RIGHTEOUS RAGE IN THE AGE OF #METOO, an anthology speaking out against sexual assault, male violence against women, and abuse of power in its many, disturbing forms, edited by Sue Goyette, shepherded by managing editor Kelly Laycock, and published by the University of Regina Press. My poem, “Autumn in the East, the Pilot” joins 80 other voices raised in rage, resistance, and resilience.

Pink, small, and punctual,
Aromatic, low,
Covert in April,
Candid in May

―Emily Dickinson

I’ll write again soon to share my engagements with the books I read, report back on whether or not the books I plan to read are actually those that I read, and how the reading goes. Until then.

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+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

+ Thank you bows to the writers and publishers, who brought their grand accomplishments of chapbooks and books into the world, for keeping me company and inspiring me in April.

+ Thank you bows to poet and editor Sue Goyette, managing editor Kelly Laycock, and the rest of the team at University of Regina Press for their forbearance and attention to the publication of RESISTANCE, and for including one of my poems in the anthology’s necessary conversation.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, and Mountain West Poetry Series editors Donald Revell and Kazim Ali, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses (2020) with me.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Beth Svinarich et al at University Press of Colorado for their beautiful support to me and The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to monsoon storm chaser and marvelous professional photographer, Liz Kemp whose monsoon photograph storms the cover of The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Vincent K. Wong for his friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ This bears repeating: Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

! BOOKS !

Happy April!

Hurrah dear reader, you are here!

In these monthly ish dispatches I share with you my writer’s and reader’s experiences—about my books, about the books of others, about my writing practice, and my reading practice.

Happy National Poetry Month!

“April is the cruellest month, breeding” is the line that opens “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot. Ninety-nine years after the publication of the seminal, Modernist poem that opening line is the prompt for the celebration of the twenty-fifth annual National Poetry Month in the United States of America. Since 1998, Canada has also been celebrating poetry during April; this is the 23rd annual celebration of National Poetry Month across the ten provinces and three territories in Canada.

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In March, my during-the-pandemic-published poetry collection, The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), celebrated its first year anniversary. What a year! The pandemic has left me reeling. The tremendous amount of loss—of precious lives and of the smaller stuffs of my normal way of life. With the grief and reckoning ongoing, I’m finding it harder to take pleasure and feeling lethargic. Of course, that’s playing a role in my sense of being in flow with my writing and reading practices, and in my sense of productivity and accomplishment.

And. Through this stream of loss and lethargy flows some “pluses” around The Minuses. What are “the pluses”? Reviews, interviews, and events I and my poems have been lucky to receive. In this post, I share with you excerpts from the review Lacy Aul, aka Claudia Keelan, offered The Minuses in Interim. Though the review was published late December 2020, I’ve been revisiting it as a lethargy-booster, to remind me of what I seek in language. Below, I also share with you the YouTube link to the year anniversary reading I gave for the Tucson-based poetry group POG. And, I take account of some of the books I read in March, the third month of my fourth annual personal Big Read:  #mypersonalBigRead2021.

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What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macarty—a review by Lacy Aul, aka Claudia Keelan

The Minuses is a collection of poems that locates origin in the ongoing energy of the physical world. Dedicated to “The One who renders this ground known and unknown,” The Minuses renders such a ground by showing how the phenomenal nature of wind, trees, birds, plants—in essence all vegetable, mineral and nonhuman entities—exist in parity with the contingent nature of their function in time. Indeed, while even human-made-things—such as doorways, windows, and public parks, also provide insight in the transparency of their use value—human beings in The Minuses are often dependent upon an a priori understanding of existence, which hinders them from observing their likewise conditional roles on the earth we share.” —from What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macartyby Lacy Aul

Lacy Aul, Claudia Keelan‘s penname, offered The Minuses a review that made birds fly out of the top of my head in Volume 36: Issue 5 of Interim, the all women’s 2020 print issue, whose publication is supported by the English Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and by the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute

Interim, edited by Claudia Keelan, gave a home to two poems from The Minuses: “Reverse of Shadow” appeared in Volume 27 / Number 1 & 2 / 2009. “You Is to Door as I Is to Door” (retitled: “Door Ratio”) appeared in Volume 30 / Issue 1 & 2 / 2013.


The presiding spirit of inquiry in The Minuses would make such a world where oppositions parlay to form a whole… The urge towards completeness in the book finds itself in constant combat with a counter spirit whose innate, if cowardly, function is to further divide—human from earth, self from other, man from woman, body from soul—into the ultimate opposition that is war. The proponents of subtraction deals in the language of one to one comparison: “I cannot say who you are without saying who I am” (21, “Reverse of Shadow”). Unstuck in time where impossibly “The past increases within the present,” (30, ”Equals Rain”) and “What you say is our future / is your future” (31, “Door Ratio”), the protagonists of opposition bully those whose loyalty towards the possibility of the “all” insures their victimization and silence.—from What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macarty by Lacy Aul

Interim and Claudia Keelan have been wonderfully, indispensably supportive to me and my work. Claudia also wrote a generous, sweet something for the back cover of The Minuses.

The poems in Jami Macarty’s devotional collection swing upon a hinge that is the recurring site of the poet’s perception in time, where what is seen shows the inherent connection of each thing to its other: “honey given : honey taken.” The Minuses’ brilliance lives in what the poet is able to give up for the possibility of finding a wholeness that is ongoing: “I come and go / from myself as I am / I will not return.” A seer is, after all, one who sees. Jami Macarty is one who sees.
—from Claudia Keelan for the back cover of The Minuses.

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POG Arts Tucson Reading, March 20, 2020

Jami Macarty lives and writes very much in the world you and I occupy, one in which we entangle with each other, have mutual responsibilities, give incredible gifts, yet don’t always treat the other or even oneself so well… There is no avoidance of the world in Macarty’s work, that world which may be disgraced and marked by serial killing, and be in need of painkillers. Yet there is also a mind intent on salvaging what is of use, a practice that will bring us tiger stamina to survive, a certainty that we are and can be though perhaps “a burning fragment,” still a fragment, “in the menagerie of the surviving world.” Macarty understands the wonders of place… One constant in her writing which seems to embrace her sense of place, literal and metaphoric, is a persistent dwelling in and within the sounds of language, sometimes expressed in a marvelous consonantal barrage of alliteration… I think we are fortunate tonight to walk our ears and minds in her particular “circus circumstance.” from Charles Alexander‘s introduction

On March 20, 2021, I celebrated the one year anniversary of The Minuses by giving a reading with Jeanne Heuving for the people of POG: Poetry in action! This is the second time I’ve read for the Tucson-based poetry group. The first reading was in 2005, a month or so before I moved from Tucson to Vancouver. For that reading I was live and in person, standing at a microphone at Cushing Street Bar in Downtown Tucson. For this second reading, fifteen and a half years later, I offered my poems over Zoom from my apartment in Vancouver. Jeanne Heuving zoomed in from Seattle, our hosts from Tucson, and forty souls joined us from locales in between.

Jeanne Heuving and I had been trying for a reading together for a while, so I was happy to finally roost at POG with her and her marvelous poems from Mood Indigo.

Listen to the POG Arts Tucson reading on YouTube!

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What I read in March: #mypersonalBigRead2021

Now, allow me to share with you what I read during March. Because March is Women’s History Month and because I had not yet read a single chapbook, I read mostly chapbooks and mostly volumes by women during the third month of the year.

In the photos above are some of the chapbooks I read in March. Let me fill in the blanks of the peeking titles at the edges. In the third photo: on the left edge, Paper Work, by Matea Kulić, and on the right edge maybe, basically, by Tracy Waide Boer, both published by Anstruther.

Other wonderful chapbook publishers of the above: Effing Press, Finishing Line Press, Frog Hollow Press, Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies Press, Madhouse Press, Nomados Literary Publishers, Omnidawn Publishing, Porkbelly Press, and SpeCt! Books.

Among the women writers above who most inspire me: Nicole Brossard, Daphne Marlatt, Hoa Nguyen, Dayna Patterson, Emily Pérez, Christine Stewart, and Lissa Wolsak; I thank them for their ongoing support and inspiration and conversation.

Chapbooks! I used to think lesser of them. That is, that they were lesser forms of publication. I think I picked up that judgment from the prevailing winds within poetry… Over time and reading, my attitude evolved… Then, between 2017 and 2018, three chapbooks containing my work were published; I found that process completely gratifying. Now I feel the complete opposite; “lesser than” has morphed to “more than”—enough. I find chapbooks special and exciting and enchanting. I respond especially to the short but intense spell they cast. Right now, with my mushy ish, hard-to-keep-interested-brain (what others are calling “pandemic brain”), the length, intensity, and ephemerality of chapbooks are a perfect match. They are a manageable read, and that makes me feel like I can accomplish some reading. Hurrah chapbooks!

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+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

+ Thank you bows to poet and reviewer and horizon Claudia Keelan, for her expansively attentive, made birds fly out of my head, generous review of The Minuses, and to Interim for ongoing support of my poetry.

+Thank you bows to Charles Alexander et al at POG for making space for me to read my poems; to Charles again for his charming introduction, and to Jeanne Heuving for sharing her poems and the Zoom stage with me on March 20, 2020.

+ Thank you bows to the writers and publishers who brought their grand accomplishments of chapbooks and books into the world for keeping me company and inspiring me in March.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, and Mountain West Poetry Series editors Donald Revell and Kazim Ali, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses with me.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Beth Svinarich et al at University Press of Colorado for their beautiful support to me and The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to monsoon storm chaser and marvelous professional photographer, Liz Kemp whose monsoon photograph storms the cover of The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Vincent K. Wong for his friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ This bears repeating: Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

! Books !

Happy third month of 2021! Dear Reader, I am grateful for your lovely company here, where I share information about my books, the books of others, and my reading practice.

Since the publication of The Minuses a year ago this month, I’ve been writing to you to share “the constellation of pluses” around my during-the-pandemic-published poetry collection. What are “the pluses”? Pluses take the form of reviews, interviews, and reading invitations I and my poems have been lucky to receive. In this post, I will also take account of books I’ve read so far this new year as I begin reading my way through my fourth annual personal Big Read: #mypersonalBigRead2021.

Bill Neumire on The Minuses: “Macarty theorizes, “The poem exists, arises with and between the poet and the reader; the poem could be thought of as the meeting bridge.” Flannery O’Connor, drawing from Pierre Chardin, told us everything that rises must converge, and in the Sonoran Desert, described with replete taxonomical detail covering its flora and fauna, Macarty gives us a persona that sends herself “into the desert to become a third person.” If, as Don Paterson tells readers in his tome-length new reflection on the very nature of a poem’s exigency, “silence is the space in which the poem makes its large echoes,” this book is humming with desert silence, and forcefully compelling in its echoic impact.”

Bill Neumire offered The Minuses an expansive, attentive, and thoughtful review in issue 17:2 “Space” of Vallum, a magazine of contemporary poetry published in Montreal, Quebec. Vallum, edited by Eleni Zisimatos and managed by Leigh Kotsilidis, gave two poems from The Minuses a home: “Nor’easter” and “Helicopter” appeared in issue 13:1 “Open Theme.” Vallum is also the publisher of Mind of Spring, my second chapbook of poetry and winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Vallum and the good people who edit and manage it are special and important to me.

Set in a desert borderland, Mind of Spring, a poem in three parts, uses contemplation as a compositional element to call to attention the social, cultural, environmental, and personal mechanisms of war. Written across borders—both visible and invisible—between homelessness and home, estrangement and intimacy, lyric and language, the poem reflects on an accreting grief for the world and meaning of the observed, while offering the reader an alternative to the commodified and monetized.

Mind of Spring, #22 in Vallum Chapbook Series, sold out of hard copies, but is available in digital format at either Vallum or 0s&1s, literary playground. Consider yourself invited to visit Vallum—to check out Mind of Spring and to read Bill Neumire’s review of The Minuses in issue 17:2 “Space”!

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Now, to my reading practice, which consists of challenging myself to read a volume, or part of one, each day of the year. For me, a volume is a collection of poetry, a chapbook, a magazine, a literary journal, a novel, memoir, essay collection, etc. I’ve written about why I’m doing this in other posts. The main impetus that prompted this Big Read was the realization that books were stacking into to-be-read towers around my desk. I seemed to be buying books, but instead of reading them I was coveting them. The mounting stacks were causing anxiety about when and how I would ever get to all of the books. Rather than pull out my hair, or do nothing, I decided to just start reading and see what I could read. The first year, 2018, I read 300 volumes. In 2019, I read a few more than 300, and in 2020, I read 200 volumes. I have to type it out: I read 800 volumes in three years. That number also gives you a sense of the to-be-read towers to which I’m referring.

The stacks have dwindled considerably, but there are still more books to read. In 2021, I intend to keep reading.

Here are some of the volumes I read in January 2021. For the first month of the year, I had the loose intention to read mostly writing by women, and that’s what I did. Seventeen of the twenty volumes of poetry and nonfiction essays depicted are written by women. The remaining eleven volumes I read during the month were written by a mix a binary and nonbinary writers, and were read in digital formats. Included: ~250 poetry submissions of three to five poems each—that’s about 1,200 poems!—for The Maynard, the poetry magazine I co-founded and edit.

Reading is, of course, teaching me a lot about myself, writing, the world—and about reading. There are times when I think about reading to such an extent that I no longer quite grasp what it is or how to do it. Reading is getting weirder for me. During a recent think on reading, I came to realize that reading scares me. I’m not convinced I can do it or be good at it. Every time I pick up a book I have the question: Will I be able to read and understand this? Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me; I just keep reading.

Here’s February stack! For February I made the intention to read Black and biracial writers. I wanted to do something tangible to celebrate, honor, elevate, and be an ally to Black poets and writers. This stack contains 23 (one volume is three-books-in-one!) volumes of poetry, stories, essays, and memoir—all by Black and biracial writers from the US, Canada, Kenya, Ghana. Additionally, I challenged myself to write a reader’s response to each book; you can read those on my Facebook page.

As of today, March 1, 2021, I have read 65 volumes, with #66, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, on the go. The recently released The Selected Works of Audre Lorde, edited by Roxane Gay, is on my list!

I acknowledge that reading and having the time to read are privileges.

I’ll be back in touch soon with more reviews of The Minuses and to share more about my reading practice in 2021.

Thanks very much for joining me here, for reading me! I’d love to hear about what your reading practice and what you’re reading. Leave me a comment!

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+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

+ Thank you bows to reviewer, Bill Neumire, for his attentive, thoughtful, generous review of The Minuses.

+Thank you bows (continuous!) to Eleni Zisimatos and Leigh Kotsilidis et al at Vallum for their confidence in and support of my writing.

+ Thank you bows to the writers and publishers who brought their grand accomplishments of books into the world.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, and Mountain West Poetry Series editors Donald Revell and Kazim Ali, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses with me.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Beth Svinarich et al at University Press of Colorado for their beautiful support to me and The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to monsoon storm chaser and marvelous professional photographer, Liz Kemp whose monsoon photograph storms the cover of The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Vincent K. Wong for his friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ This bears repeating: Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

! Books !

Welcome, Dear Reader! How happy I am to have your fine company here, where I share information about my books and the books of others.

Recently, I’ve been posting on what I’m referring to as “the constellation of pluses” around my during-the-pandemic-published poetry collection, The Minuses. Pluses take the form of reviews, interviews, and readings I and my poems have been lucky to receive. In this post, I will also take account of books with which I’ve engaged this year, my third annual personal Big Read: #mypersonalBigRead2020.

First, the possessive—my book, The Minuses, 2020 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Poetry Arizona winner. When I knew a winner’s certificate would be arriving, I felt a tinge of—what?—embarrassment, silliness, or some other mysterious flavor of self-consciousness. Then, wouldn’t you know, the certificate arrived—along with a wash of pride and joy. Funny that.

Above: The certificate, framed with pride and joy!

Second, books written by others. Just as in 2018 and 2019, this year I intended to read a book/volume a day. With the advent of having a book published and the work associated with wanting to be its best ambassador to the world, with the pandemic, and with the vicissitudes of life, that intention became read when I can—even, if I can.

Above: Three terrific anthologies I read in January—before there was a pandemic.

Reading was more of a challenge than intention could manage this year. The global worry made for mega preoccupation, and plainly, and inability to focus and concentrate on the page from March onward. What eventually tethered me to the page again was writing a poem-a-day in July. This daily bringing-to-words practice was more grounding and joy-inducing than I knew possible under the circumstances. I was in need of both in this time of great loss. I have known my reading practice to lead to writing. Now, I know my writing practice leads to reading. The practice is a marvelous two-way! Now, three years into it, I have the sense of my reading practice sending its tap root deeper.

Above: Three terrific books from Barrow Street Press.

At the close of 2017, after becoming aware of the anxiety and overwhelm from the book towers I was erecting around my desk, I resolved to start a reading practice in order to bring into some balance the acquiring, coveting, reading, and give-away of books. To answer the anxiety’s call: Just start reading, I soothed myself, see what you can do. Et voila!

From this reading practice, I have been gifted much. Much. For instance, I’ have learning things about:

  • Attention–what keeps mine
  • Comprehension–it’s dependent on attention
  • Taste–how not to judge myself for what I like or don’t
  • Company–what I read for
  • Inspiration–O, to read what hurries me to the page

Above: One of my favorite favorites from the year.

Regarding numbers, even when I knew I was not going to surpass my personal big read of 2019, I still kept count—and kept reading. I’m heartened by that—by that not giving up I witnessed in myself.

Here, I present

[ the Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2020       

96: Full-length collections of poetry
35: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
56: Journals, Magazines (literary, etc.)
21: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
____________________________
Total = 208 individual volumes in 2020!

To the right: Another favorite favorites of the year.

The total is 95 volumes fewer than last year. That is a fact, not a beating up of myself. The big difference is in how many poetry chapbooks (29 fewer than in 2019 ) and full-length poetry collections (70 fewer than in 2019) I read. Notably, I read about the same number of journals and magazines (51 in 2019, 56 in 2020)There is a one volume difference between 2019 and 2020 in the fiction, nonfiction, memoir category.

I hasten to add that included in what I read in 2020: Terrific writing by the 60 writers with whom I had the pleasure of working, teaching, and editing; plus 500 poetry submissions sent for consideration to The Maynard Spring and Fall 2020 issues.

The results for the previous two years follow.

[ the Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2019       

166: Full-length collections of poetry
64: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
51: Journals
22: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
____________________________
Total = 303 individual volumes in 2019!

[ last year’s Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2018       

205: Full-length collections of poetry
67: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
21: Journals
7: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
____________________________
Total = 300 individual volumes in 2018!

The expansion of my reading experience continues and the stacks in all categories continue to melt along with the overwhelm and anxiety. Now, there is more confidence in myself as a reader, and there is the all-sorts-of knowledge gained from the experience of this deep reading practice. Plus, I’m filled with gratitude at the privilege that allows me time and books to read.

There are still some hours left in 2020. To books!

ONWARD!

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+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

+ Thank you bows to the writers and publishers who brought their grand accomplishments of books into the world.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, and Mountain West Poetry Series editors Donald Revell and Kazim Ali, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses with me.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Beth Svinarich et al at Unversity Press of Colorado for their beautiful support to me and The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to monsoon storm chaser and marvelous professional photographer, Liz Kemp whose monsoon photograph storms the cover of The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Vincent K. Wong for his friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ This bears repeating: Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

++ THE MINUSES ++

Dear Reader, an interview is a chance to practice the high art of conversation. A conversation is a plus!

I bring to your attention the June 9, 2020 plus of an interview that the most lovely human and excellent poetry reader, Dayna Patterson conducted with me and The Minuses. Dayna and I met in our conversation on the Poetry Hour (4-5pm PDT) that she hosts for Western C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Activities, Resources, Education, Support) at Western Washington University.

Watch and listen to conversation here (use password: 8Q.A!M.?)

photos and compilation by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

The Poetry Hour interview took place over Zoom, of course. The photos and compilation above are by Vincent K. Wong, my good pal and a terrific experimental photographer. Vincent attended the event, with 40 other souls, and took these photos of Dayna and me.

I didn’t realize the background image of Sonoran Desert and its saguaro cacti came through and interpentrated the live image of me, shifting foreground and background, the live and the still until Vincent sent me the series of photos he took during the event. I love the photos and the special effects are a perfect visual component to a quality of feeling I’m trying to get at in the poems of The Minuses.

photo by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

Here are the questions Dayna Patterson asked me during the interview:

  1. We’re here to discuss your recent collection, The Minuses. When I think of the phrase, “the minuses,” I usually hear it in conjunction with “the pluses and the minuses.” With that title holding only the last part of the phrase, I expected that the book would press into themes of loss, negation, and deprivation. It certainly did that, and in ways that surprised me. For example, the book seems to be built from the scrap of a wrecked relationship. Is that an accurate description? Would you read the first piece for us and talk about why you selected this title for your book? 
  2. There’s a lot of verticality in this collection, a motif that in some places conjures, for me, a feeling of vertigo, and in other places a kind of longing to be detached, above the fray, so to speak. How were you working with notions of verticality vs. horizontality in this collection? (Read “Flight Hours,” “Mountain Hypotenuse,” and/or “Nor’easter”)
  3. How and when did you become so intimately acquainted with the landscape of the Sonoran Desert and its environs? What was your research process for the poems in this collection? (Read “Monsoon Desert,” “At Gravity’s Feet,” & “Music 5:30.”) I’m particularly interested in the phrase “I sent myself into the desert to become a third person” in “At Gravity’s Feet.”
  4. Can you talk about the way these poems lean into the colon and the double colon? For you, does the colon represent a kind of mathematical equation rendered into syntax? (Read “By Virtue of And”)
  5. A poem that really resonated for me from this collection is “Door Ratio.” Would you mind reading that one for us?
  6. Your notes section is expansive, specific, and generous. Why include the Latin name for each species you mention in the notes? How do you decide what to put in the notes to a collection?
  7. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the making of this book?
  8. What are you working on now or next?
  9. Who are some of the writers or artists that inspire you? In particular, are there contemporary poets you’d like to recommend to our audience today?

And, here I am endeavoring to arrive at answers, to be responsive.

photo by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

Dayna’s and my conversation was followed by a Q&A with our audience of listeners and joining souls.

Watch and listen to conversation here (use password: 8Q.A!M.?)

: : : :

+ Thank you bows to Goddess Dayna Patterson for reading The Minuses, for her thoughtful questions, and for featuring and hosting me on the Poetry Hour for Western C.A.R.E.S. at Western Washington University.

+ Thank you bows to Western C.A.R.E.S. at Western Washington University and Goddess Athena Roth for offering her very fine administrative support during the event.

+ Thank you bows to the 40 souls with their beautiful ears and minds who joined me et al for the June 9 interview and conversation.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, editor Donald Revell, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses with me.

+ Thank you bows to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

++ The Minuses ++

Dear Reader, I want you to meet some of the wonderful people who, along with you, are the pluses, congregating around The Minuses.

March 5-7: The Minuses debuted at the Association of Writers & Writing Program (AWP) conference, which took place in San Antonio, Texas.

The Center for Liteary Publishing booth and table at AWP; see The Minuses at table center!

There, publisher Stephanie G’Schwind hosted me for a book signing at the Center for Literary Publishing booth. In the photo above: the Center for Literary Publishing booth all set up and ready for the conference. That’s The Minuses centered on the table! Below, that’s the lovely intern (name lost in the shuffle, on left) with publisher, Stephanie G’Schwind (right).

Lovely helpful intern (left) with my publisher, Stephanie G’Schwind

At the beginning of March were early days and much about Covid-19 was still unfolding. There had been much debate about whether or not to cancel the AWP conference. When the conference went ahead, thousands of registrants cancelled their attendance. Imagine a poet’s heart. A poet has waited for years to find a publisher for her book, and that’s finally happened, only the world is cancelling. Of course, my poet’s heart is only part of the equation. Many others had a change of heart, deciding that conference attendance was too risky. As I assessed the risk for myself, my gut guided me that it was safe to go. So I did! Others join me there…

I’m glad I went to the conference. Lovely people were seen and communed with (picture above): Danielle Hanson, James Arthur, John Barger, Trish Hopkinson in a Plath (!) T-shirt, Beth Ann Fennelly, Stephanie G’Schwind, Rusty Morrison, Andrea, Jim Johnstone (w/John Barger), Kenneth Pobo, Adrienne Drobnies, and Sean Singer. Special others (not pictured): Emily Perez, Sara Meeks, Desirée Alvarez, Aaron Graham… et al. Typing their names, remembering them fills my heart again with the pleasure of their company. Plus, my publisher sold all the books she brought, which I happily signed. Smiles all around.

: : : :

March 22: The celebratory reading of The Minuses in Tucson, Arizona was planned. Joining me: long-time poet friend, Eleanor Kedney, whose poetry collection Between the Earth and Sky was released in early March. With a lovely venue booked, invitations to 125 people sent, and cupcakes ordered, Eleanor and I were excited. So was Covid-19; cases were on the rise. So to be sensitive to our guests’ concerns and still hold our event, we decided to move the reading online to Blackboard, a platform available through Simon Fraser University. This was before Zoom!

The covers: Between Earth and the Sky & The Minuses

My generous partner, John Welch, set up the event and hosted me, Eleanor, and 50 supportive souls who showed up for us and our poems. The event came off with ease and joy. Plus, our gathering together let me know that my community was still there, congregating around me and my poems.

: : : :

+ Thank you bows to Stephanie G’Schwind and each of the interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) booth at AWP for making The Minuses available and for your support to me during the conference.

+ Thank you bows to everyone who visited me at the CLP booth, who bestowed the best of all book-buying support, and who shared conversation and meals with me at the conference!

+ Thank you bows to John Welch for setting up and hosting the March 22 reading!

+ Thank you bows to Eleanor Kedney for reading with me!

+ Thank you bows to the 50 souls who attended the March 22 reading!

+ Thank you bows to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

The Minuses

 

After years of working on the poems,

after signing off on the final proof,

after burning the owl-high stack of manuscript versions,

after disposing of every last ashen comma and colon,

after the boxes containing the books arrived at my door,

The Minuses at my door

after the boxes containing the books were opened,

and, after eyeing and drinking in the realization that The Minuses is in print! is published! books are in hand!

I’m resting on my laurels*.

 

  • *After spontaneously using this phrase, I did a bit of reading on the orgin of the laurel wreath and its associates in Greek mythology, namely Eros, the god of love, Apollo, patron of archery, and Daphne, a river nymph. The story: Apollo made fun of Eros’ use of arrows, so Eros took revenge by shooting Apollo with a gold arrow, instilling him with love for Daphne, and shot Daphne with a lead arrow, instilling her with hatred for Apollo. To be free of him, Daphne was turned into a laurel tree, which is evergreen because Apollo rendered it thus. Fashioning himself a wreath out of the laurel branches, Apollo turned Daphne into a cultural symbol for him and other musicians and poets. Rather perfect, yes?

 


Current mood: a yellow rose and desert monsoon, gratitude-infusion!

Thank you bows to my publisher: Stephanie G’Schwind; the photographer of the cover image: Liz Kemp, and the horizon of poets, who offered their endorsements to the book: Gillian Conoley, Claudia Keelan, and Daphne Marlatt.

 

! Books !

It is the Muses

Who have caused me
to be honored: they 
taught me their craft

-Sappho

The Cover

First the possessive. My books. The Minuses, a full-length collection forthcoming (Feb 2020) in the Mountain West Poetry Series published by the Center for Literary Publishing joins my three chapbooks, Instinctive Acts, Mind of Spring, and Landscape of The Wait.

Don Revell and I would very much like to publish your manuscript as the spring 2020 MWPS title if it’s still available… 

-Stephanie G’Schwind

I received the offer to publish on Labor Day, September 2 at 4:29 PM (PST). I had spent the entire day laboring over a new version of the manuscript, inputting edits and so on. At five O’clock I saved and closed the file, then checked email. A half hour earlier, Stephanie G’Schwind, director of the Center for Literary Publishing wrote to me: Don Revell and I would very much like to publish your manuscript as the spring 2020 MWPS title if it’s still available…

What to say. This. I’m over Saturn’s moon. Over Jupiter’s moons.

That plus Laura Linney’s character Sarah in Love Actually when Karl is going to stay. Like that.Love Actually

 

 

 

The autumn months were a happy flurry of editing, proofing, selecting the cover, and various other things that go into making a book a book. Tuesday, December 17 at 2:25 PM (MST) I signed off on The Minuses. The book is scheduled to be out for Valentine’s Day. Can you think of better sandwich for a poet than one made between Labor and Love? More and more soon, soon…

After I signed off, I became aware of how mentally fatigued I was. The months of proofreading and decision-making took a toll. When I looked within for words and that feeling I have for them–a love affair–it was absent. Where was it? Tired!

But nothing a ritual fire couldn’t clear!

I gathered all of the hardcopy (used on both sides) versions of the manuscript I could find and burned them! As I sat in the heat of the fire I chanted gratitude to the poems that are The Minuses and welcomed those that may come:

if you will come 

I shall put out 
fresh pillows for 
you to rest on

-Sappho

 

Second books written by others. As in 2018, this year I intended to read a book a day. With travel and the vicissitudes of life that became read as much as I can when I can.

Above some of the books that I look up to from 2019…

I resolved to start this reading practice (at the close of 2017), after becoming acutely aware of the sky scrapers of books surrounding my desk. I seemed to be coveting books, but not reading them–at least not at the rate I was buying them. Simultaneous to this awareness was the co-arising of anxiety at how many books there were towering, looming. After the overwhelm subsided, I decided to start reading… just to see what I could do. Et voila!

From this reading practice, I have learned about:

  • Attention–what keeps mine
  • Comprehension–it’s dependent on attention
  • Taste–how not to judge myself for what I like or don’t
  • Company–what I read for
  • Inspiration–o, to read what hurries me to the page

Above some more of the books that I look up to from  2019

Here:

[ the Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2019       

166: Full-length collections of poetry
64: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
51: Journals
22: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
____________________________
Total = 303 individual volumes in 2019!

[ last year’s Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2018       

205: Full-length collections of poetry
67: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
21: Journals
7: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
____________________________
Total = 300 individual volumes in 2018!

Notably, I read more than twice the number of journals, more than three times the fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and three more titles in 2019. The stacks in all categories continue to melt and so does the anxiety and overwhelm. Replacing them: confidence and the knowledge gained from the experience of this deep reading practice. There are still some hours left in 2019. To books!

ONWARD!